Mark Webber finishes his professional racing career at the end of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season, but will continue in motorsports as a Porsche “special representative.” The 6 Hours of Bahrain on 19 November will be the last time the reigning World Champion from Australia will run as a factory driver.
On the surface – or rather the track – Webber has no reason to quit as his lap times often and consistently are among the leaders on timing sheets. However, going out on top, and not on top of a stretcher, is a strategy that AutoInformed endorses, though we will miss watching him slice and dice through and around competitive cars. MLB’s Big Papi comes to mind where he competes in an endurance contest of another sort, one that is no less demanding on reflexes, conditioning and smarts.
A nine-time Formula One Grand Prix winner, the 40-year-old Webber will act for Porsche at global events and, as a consultant will “contribute” to the motorsport programs of the car and crossover SUV manufacturer from Stuttgart. In endurance racing Porsche is holding a commanding LMP1 lead – the fastest, arguably most competitive class – in both the driver’s and manufacturer’s championships.
“It was a big change from Formula One to LMP1, and an entirely new experience. But it came at the right time for me,” said Webber. “I found I liked sharing a car and the chemistry between Timo, Brendon and me is special and something I’ll always remember.” (FIA Endurance Cup Racing at Mount Fuji in Japan this Weekend)They are currently running fourth in the championship. “It will be strange getting into the race car for the very last time in Bahrain but for now I will thoroughly enjoy every moment of the remaining races,” said Webber.
CEO of FIA WEC Gerard Neveu said, “From the moment he joined Porsche and our paddocks in 2014, he completely embraced all the FIA WEC has to offer and he has never given less than 100% in everything he does.”
In Webber’s book Aussie Grit https://www.amazon.com/Aussie-Grit-Formula-One-Journey/dp/1509813543 he says his Formula One Journey began when he left home in New South Wales, Australia at the age of 19 “with a clear goal – to further his career as a racing driver in England.”
Webber was one of many without a sponsor, but he had talent. He won the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, raced in Formula 3 and Formula 3000. Then he was contracted to join the sports car program at Mercedes. The 24-hour Le Mans race was set to be the highlight of the 1999 season. The car and his team were considered favorites. But the Mercedes’s aerodynamics were described as “knife-edge.” This is tough to argue against, as Webber’s car produced a backflip in the qualifying session, and again during the warm-up. He survived the two crashes unharmed. Some said his career was over.
However, next came a Formula One test drive for the Benetton team, leading to a test and reserve driver position in 2001. Webber’s Formula One debut was notable. He finished fifth in 2002 at his home Grand Prix in Melbourne – with a Minardi that by all accounts was slow. In 2005 he scored his first podium finish with the former BMW WilliamsF1 team. He celebrated his first F1 win at the 2009 German Grand Prix with Red Bull Racing in his 131st Grand Prix – talk about “instant success”, after seven years of hard work. In 2010 and 2012 he won the Monaco Grand Prix.
Webber returned to La Sarthe (Le Mans) in 2014. His endurance car back flips from 1999 was behind him, but victory has continued to evade him. He was driving in second place with only two hours left after 22 when a powertrain ended the run. In 2015, the Porsche 919 that he again shared with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley was running in the lead during the first third of the race. Well, a time penalty moved them down the field. The trio worked through the field to take second place. In 2016 it a damaged water pump that prevented him and his teammates from winning Le Mans.
Looking back, the biggest Mark Webber triumph was achieved at a nail-biting finale (if you’re not wearing Nomex gloves) in November 2015 at Bahrain. The title was at stake. Both throttle barrel levers were broken and had to be locked at full throttle. The Porsche 919 was able to finish with engineers scurrying in the pits as the drivers put on a show of finesse.
“To have scored my first World Championship title with Timo and Brendon with Porsche means a great deal to me,” says Webber, it’s said, who never talks about this triumph without mentioning his teammates.
Mark Webber Racing Record
- 2016 Porsche works driver WEC, LMP1, wins at the Nürburgring, Mexico City and Austin
- 2015 Porsche works driver WEC, LMP1 , Drivers’ World Champion with Bernhard/Hartley, 4 wins (Nürburgring, Austin, Fuji, Shanghai), 3 pole positions, 2nd at Le Mans
- 2014 Porsche works driver WEC, LMP1 , 3rd Silverstone, Fuji and Bahrain , Pole position São Paulo
- 2013 3rd Formula One World Championship (Infiniti Red Bull Racing)
- 2012 6th Formula One World Championship (Red Bull Racing), 1st Monaco, Silverstone
- 2011 3rd Formula One World Championship (Red Bull Racing) , 1st São Paulo
- 2010 3rd Formula One World Championship (Red Bull Racing) , 1st Barcelona, Monaco, Silverstone, Budapest
- 2009 4th Formula One World Championship (Red Bull Racing) , 1st Nürburgring, São Paulo
- 2008 11th Formula One World Championship (Red Bull Racing)
- 2007 12th Formula One World Championship (Red Bull Racing)
- 2006 14th Formula One World Championship (WilliamsF1 Team)
- 2005 10th Formula One World Championship (BMW WilliamsF1 Team)
- 2004 13th Formula One World Championship (Jaguar Racing)
- 2003 10th Formula One World Championship (Jaguar Racing)
- 2002 16th Formula One World Championship (KL Minardi Asiatech)
- 2001 2nd Formula 3000 Championship (3 wins), Formula One test driver (Benetton Renault)
- 2000 3rd Formula 3000 Championship (EFR/Arrows, 1 win), Formula One test driver (Arrows)
- 1999 FIA GT Championship (AMG Mercedes, opt out after the Le Mans 24 Hours)
- 1998 2nd FIA GT Championship (AMG Mercedes, 5 wins)
- 1997 4th British Formula 3 Championship (1 win)
- 1996 2nd British Formula Ford Championship (4 wins) , Winner Formula Ford Festival Brands Hatch
- 1995 4th Australian Formula Ford Championship, 3rd Formula Ford Festival Brands Hatch
- 1994 Debut Australian Formula Ford Championship
- 1991-1993 Karting